Bayonetta was designed by a woman, who said that for herself it was a power fantasy. However she also sought (or perhaps was required to have; I have trouble believing a game company would be like, “okay! that’s that, a second person doesn’t have to have anything to do with this” and this doesn’t regard gender) male input on what men would find sexy.
The first Bayonetta game kicks serious ass. Bayonetta is also a 3D character with agency, thoughts, motivations, etc. Things that are required. I also know damn well the game passes the Bechdel Test (many games, despite being a lot longer than movies, do not). However the issue is that Bayonetta is used for the male gaze. Period. If you argue this point, you are irrational. In the marketing materials, a character is used to get your attention through sexual exploitation. In the context of marketing materials, a character does not have agency. In the context of gamer playing game, a character does not have agency.
It’s the same thing as author logic vs. world logic. What is more important is author logic, though it’s fun to debate world logic. The author includes things for a reason, and it’s not usually the same reason the character is doing something. If you believe in a god, think of it this way: what you do means something different to you than it would to a god.
If you don’t believe in a god (I do not) then use The Sims. Your Sims have motivations which are different from yours because you are creator and a meta-observer of their world. You are far more aware of the constructs and confines which their behavior is defined by. You can make them do things, which in their eyes are their own choices.
In world logic, Bayonetta is sexual as a means of power, she uses her sexuality to assert herself as superior. She is the one in control, and she doesn’t actually have any sex because that is her choice. Her body is her business and fuck everyone who is staring at her.
In author (in this case designer) logic, Bayonetta is sexual because sexuality is her power fantasy , but the female designer is also not the only author (and it’s partially influenced by society, anyway). There were male contributions, as well, as to what is “sexy” meaning part of the author logic is already male gaze. The designer and her male counterpart (I won’t call him a second designer as it sounds as if he was simply consulted) are still not the only authors. The rest of the company is also authors in any video game. Video game creation requires at least a few people and everyone is somehow responsible for the portrayal of a character - and I would venture to say the designers are probably some of the lesser in this hierarchy.
Other authors more responsible for actual portrayal: animators, writers, marketers, spokespeople, social media agents.
I guarantee there isn’t a 100% consensus between even the designers and writers as to what exactly the sexuality in Bayonetta means. I’d be willing to bet to at least one of the animators, it’s an excuse to be a total pervert, too.
All of these people interpret the character’s looks and actions before you or me ever see her. So we can talk about what Bayonetta’s sexuality means to her - a fictional character - and that’s fine. It’s good she is an empowered woman with control over her sexuality in world, but her world is controlled by us. And by us, I mean eventually us. Before we have control over it, a lot of other people filter it into what they think it means - and what can sell the most.
Do I think that a character made for the male gaze is sexist? Yes. I do. Actually misogynist, sexist is a little inclusive for the problems we are trying to address in gaming/all entertainment. Does a bit too much implying that misandry is something.
Do I feel like that makes her in-world character invalid? No. I think it’s good someone in that company tried to depict a strong woman in control of her world/body/sexuality. I just think that they didn’t get there because they couldn’t resist stepping onto one side of the line rather than the other. I do not think there shouldn’tbe sexual characters. I think with some work, Bayonetta could actually be what people think Bayonetta is. The fact she is perceived as forward thinking (by even myself until re-evaluating it recently) says a lot about the state of gaming.
The last I played Bayonetta was a few years ago, so my memory of it was through nostalgia glasses. Also, I definitely did not function on the level of understanding I do today at that point. What I did was apply the logic of something I said in January this year about Black Cat, a character I do not like, to Bayonetta, a character I do like. One has to be objective. While Bayonetta is not really the subject of slut-shaming, she is NOT a person. She is a representation of what a collective (a company, Platinum Games) thinks people want in a person. While she has MANY positive traits, there is that sexual element that is very clearly being used in a way that is misogynist in nature: women as sex objects.
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